GMOs deployment in Nigeria began towards the end of the last administration when the National Assembly passed the National Biosafety Agency Bill. This was subsequently signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan, authorizing biotechnology research and deployment in Nigeria.
As soon as the present Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development resumed office, he called a meeting with the agencies responsible for biotechnology in Nigeria to ascertain the safety of research results for humans and our environment and was assured that all was safe. However, not long ago, the debate on GMOs safety was open and we have learnt that earlier claims made by a Kenyan Harvard Professor, who has been in the forefront of promoting GMOs, haven’t been exactly accurate.
The Public Policy on agricultural biotechnology rests within three ministries in the federal government, namely: the Ministries of Science & Technology, Environment and Agriculture.
There are two agencies responsible for the control of biotech products: The National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) which is under the Ministry of Science & Technology while the National Bio-safety Management Agency (NBMA) is supervised by the Ministry of Environment. Go to www.nbma.gov.ng and www.nabda.gov.ng to learn more about their responsibilities and mandates.
Both NABDA and NABMA have biotech-related work as the core of their activities. While NABDA is involved in development and utilisation of biotechnology, NBMA is specifically charged with the task of regulation of their use, particularly the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to ensure safety to humans and the environment.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is concerned mainly with the use of agricultural biotechnology tools, but subject to approval and endorsement by both NABDA and NBMA.
We are as concerned as every other Nigerian and we realise the need to be cautious in the deployment of GMOs but the matter does not lie with us alone, which is why the Ministry of Agriculture is a little slow to talk about it. We are still doing as much research as we can even as we hold meetings with the other ministries which have responsibility for regulating biotechnology.
For the purpose of unified communication, the three ministries are meeting to ensure that we get the facts right and all speak with one voice on the GMO issue. An official position will be issued when we are done with our own research and consultations.